US sauce maker HJ Heinz has backed its fiscal 2003 earnings outlook, citing the good performance of its ketchup brand.

The company, which recently sold off its underperforming tuna, pet food and baby food units to US food company Del Monte Foods, is now focusing on its primary condiments and sauces business, with particular focus on developing its Heinz Ketchup brand. In recent years, Heinz has introduced coloured ketchup, organic ketchup and a range of packaging innovations, such as its Easy Squeeze! upside down ketchup bottle.

“We’ve had good top-line growth against our most important brand, driven primarily by ketchup,” chief executive William Johnson told Reuters in an interview.

The Heinz brand now accounts for an estimated US$2.7bn in annual sales, 30% of the company’s annual sales after the Del Monte transaction. In the past two fiscal years, it has grown at a compound rate of about 3%.

Meanwhile, Heinz Canada has announced that it has signed an agreement to supply ketchup to all the restaurants of the Canadian branch of US fastfood giant McDonald’s. The supply deal, which will see Heinz ketchup served in all of the more than 1,300 McDonald’s restaurants in Canada, will commence in April 2003.